Interpreting AIIM’s Executive Leadership Council Thought Paper on Information Governance

In June of last year, AIIM and its Executive Leadership Council posed a series of information governance (IG) trends to 52 senior information management executives via the Information Governance Trendscape.  Subsequently, they published the results (along with a summary of the observations and recommendations) in a research paper designed to outline a set of priorities that would help organizations separate the “hype from reality.”  Sherpa Software agrees that information governance is increasing in importance and separating the hype from reality does truly present an opportunity for organizations therefore, this article provides our perspective on the topic and on the report itself.

The views expressed by leading content and information management executives in the Trendscape report suggest the following are high importance and high likelihood IG trends:

  • “The siloed nature of content and information management systems will prevent implementation of comprehensive governance plans.”
  • “Governance will continue to be viewed through a risk rather than opportunity lens.”
  • “Rising privacy and security concerns from customers will force organizations to embrace governance.”
  • “Despite experts’ handwringing, we’ll settle for ’good enough‘ for governance.”
  • “Organizations will solve the data deluge by buying more storage space, not by establishing processes.”

High importance and low likelihood was also identified with the recommendation to, “keep on the radar; get ready.”

  • “Governance will truly become a strategic concern of the enterprise.”
  • “Governance will be driven by analytics.”

Still, there is other feedback and debate centered on the transparency necessary to implement an IG program.  Should it be invisible to the end users or should there be greater accountability in the process and therefore greater reliance on people to govern themselves?

Information governance today is loaded with contradictions and confusion.  That is probably the first observation to surface in the AIIM research and it is the primary focus of the executive summary.  Some professionals love the concept of IG while some hate it.  Everyone seems to define information governance differently.  Many do not fully understand it or know how to implement an IG strategy.  This is painfully obvious in the Trendscape.  What everyone seemed to agree on, however, is that whatever you call it, governing/managing your information is critical to the success of your organization.  John Mancini, AIIM President, recognized this very point. “Organizations are systems of information networks.  They only operate effectively when there are clear and predictable information flows within and between these networks.  Without intervention, the resulting information chaos will threaten the viability of the entire system.”

The real problem is that it is complicated and difficult to figure out an ideal information governance strategy.  No matter how you define it, unless you are one of the misguided few who think it is no different than records management (if so, please read this blog article), understanding that information assets are similar to other corporate assets and require management, protection, monitoring and response standards and policies from the time it is created until its ultimate disposal is critical.  Allowing the noise and confusion to get in the way is simply a recipe for disaster.

Let’s address that noise a bit.  First, each of our definitions of IG depend on our role and our perspective within our organizations or even within the industry as a whole.  Ask 10 executives to define information governance and you will likely hear 10 different answers.  That was clearly my experience last year at the Managing Electronic Records Conference (MER) where a panel of industry experts speaking on the topic of IG all had different definitions as well as different thoughts on who would manage IG and what it would be called moving forward (Read this blog post for more on MER).

In addition to this confusing terminology, we have confusing conversations.  Managing information has, for a long time, been about managing risk and costs.  It is very difficult to flip that discussion to one of value.  Part of the reason this is so difficult is because of the proliferation of information across the enterprise and across stakeholders.  How do you get records management, enterprise architects, compliance officers, risk managers, board members, department heads, DBAs, the CEO the CIO, the CTO and finally basic information seekers to all view the value of information the same?  As we mentioned earlier, they all bring a different perspective to the table.

First Step
My perspective is that we don’t have to have a singular definition or approach IG from the same perspective.  Every organization is different and there is no ideal formula for information governance, but the process to engineer the ideal formula for your organization is the same for everyone.  Elevating it to a strategic level and recognizing that information needs to be managed, protected, monitored and disposed of properly throughout the entire enterprise is the first step.

Second Step
Want to take the next step, and the step after that?  I highly recommend reading the complimentary four-part white paper series by Sherpa Software’s vp of strategy and solutions, Rick Wilson, on enterprise information governance. This series titled Corporate Information Governance Program (CIGP), helps organizations create a trustworthy enterprise-wide program to facilitate effective management of information authority, control, accessibility and visibility throughout the information lifecycle.  Wilson describes a proven process for undertaking an information governance program from understanding and assessment, to planning and documenting, then implementation, and finally the ongoing management.

I also recommend downloading the AIIM report we discussed in this article.  In addition to the many opinions shared by information professionals via the Trendscape, they include steps to increasing enterprise IG mindshare and some interesting and helpful facts from the AIIM report, “Automating Information Governance – Assuring Compliance.”

Whether you agree with the opinions or prioritization of IG trends by your peers in the Trendscape, there are a few final recommendations in the report for seizing the opportunity that IG presents.  Explore these and you may elevate information governance from a tactical to a strategic concern.  The three “Levers” include:

  1. “Rising privacy and security concerns from customers represent a potential driver for expanding IG initiatives.”
  2. “Effective IG is a pre-condition for simplifying the complex spider web of unconnected applications and data that plague every CIO.”
  3. “IG has to be repositioned as relevant to the enterprise mission and a possible source of competitive advantage.”

Finally, the report states,

“Information governance isn’t just another way to talk about records management.  Instead, information governance is foundational to an organization’s success in the digital age.  To truly transform into a digital enterprise, organizations need to know where their information is for risk, for discovery, and, most importantly, for adding value.”

“Information Governance is not simple.  From a “doing” point of view information governance needs to be easy for end users.  From an organizational standpoint, IG is a project that is never over and will require continual attention and tweaking to encompass new tools, regulations, information, and opportunity.”

“Think bigger than risk.  Make information governance a core part of your organizational strategy and reap the rewards.”

With that being said, are you convinced of this ongoing trend? Do you plan on implementing an IG strategy in 2015? Please comment below – we’d love to get your insights!